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Hi all! Long time lurker, first time poster ...

Today my wife had the most ridiculous thing happen in her 2004 New Beetle. At this point I'm torn between two possibilities but I'm certainly open to others.

After starting the car up this morning she got about 2,000 feet from our house when the car suddenly died waiting at a light. All of the instrument panel lights flashed briefly and then went out. She put the car in park and tried to restart it - nothing. She tried to active the emergency flashers - nothing. She tried rolling the windows down with the key in any position - nothing. Finally she took the keys out and called me.

While I was on my way up to meet her all of the sudden the horn honked and the car restarted itself with the key out of the ignition. The keys were in her lap then (would that be close enough to pass the immobilizer test?) Both the clock and trip odometer were reset but otherwise there didn't appear to be any issues.

She put the key in and turned it to run so she could get it in gear. At that point the horn honked and she turned the key to off and the engine stopped. She then restarted it and pulled into the nearest parking lot and turned the car off and waited for me. I've been test driving it all day and haven't been able to reproduce the problem.

So all that said I'm thinking there might be a problem with the ignition switch after reading various threads here. I pulled the top steering cover off and looked at the connector as best I could and I didn't see any of the infamous melted wires. I checked the fuse box on top of the battery and everything looks pristine.

The battery is about three years old and it's got a voltage of about 12.5V with the car sitting in the garage for the last three hours. I ordered a new ignition switch and it should be here next week. I may replace the battery this weekend.

Does anybody have any ideas on this one? What's really throwing me for a loop is the fact that the car restarted itself without the key in the ignition. There was obviously a total loss of battery voltage since the hazards wouldn't work either.
 

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Hi all! Long time lurker, first time poster ...

Today my wife had the most ridiculous thing happen in her 2004 New Beetle. At this point I'm torn between two possibilities but I'm certainly open to others.

After starting the car up this morning she got about 2,000 feet from our house when the car suddenly died waiting at a light. All of the instrument panel lights flashed briefly and then went out. She put the car in park and tried to restart it - nothing. She tried to active the emergency flashers - nothing. She tried rolling the windows down with the key in any position - nothing. Finally she took the keys out and called me.

While I was on my way up to meet her all of the sudden the horn honked and the car restarted itself with the key out of the ignition. The keys were in her lap then (would that be close enough to pass the immobilizer test?) Both the clock and trip odometer were reset but otherwise there didn't appear to be any issues.

She put the key in and turned it to run so she could get it in gear. At that point the horn honked and she turned the key to off and the engine stopped. She then restarted it and pulled into the nearest parking lot and turned the car off and waited for me. I've been test driving it all day and haven't been able to reproduce the problem.

So all that said I'm thinking there might be a problem with the ignition switch after reading various threads here. I pulled the top steering cover off and looked at the connector as best I could and I didn't see any of the infamous melted wires. I checked the fuse box on top of the battery and everything looks pristine.

The battery is about three years old and it's got a voltage of about 12.5V with the car sitting in the garage for the last three hours. I ordered a new ignition switch and it should be here next week. I may replace the battery this weekend.

Does anybody have any ideas on this one? What's really throwing me for a loop is the fact that the car restarted itself without the key in the ignition. There was obviously a total loss of battery voltage since the hazards wouldn't work either.
GREMLINS! Definately Gremlins!

No seriously, "the car restarted itself with the key out of the ignition" - no key in the ignition and the power source in the car not only jumped back to life, but the engine cranked and started? That is a mechanical provision of the switch, don't believe it would be possible, as it also requires the driver to release the position of the key back to "run" after "crank". Perhaps a terminology issue, here?

Does sound like a switch issue, regardless. Hope you ordered an OEM, any aftermarket is guaranteed to have problems, IF it works at all.
Need to read this -
http://newbeetle.org/forums/questions-issues-concerns-problems-new-beetle/52591-another-ignition-switch-issue.html#post764030

M.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
GREMLINS! Definately Gremlins!

No seriously, "the car restarted itself with the key out of the ignition" - no key in the ignition and the power source in the car not only jumped back to life, but the engine cranked and started? That is a mechanical provision of the switch, don't believe it would be possible, as it also requires the driver to release the position of the key back to "run" after "crank". Perhaps a terminology issue, here?

Does sound like a switch issue, regardless. Hope you ordered an OEM, any aftermarket is guaranteed to have problems, IF it works at all.
Need to read this -
http://newbeetle.org/forums/questions-issues-concerns-problems-new-beetle/52591-another-ignition-switch-issue.html#post764030

M.
Thanks. Yes I ordered an OEM switch. I too questioned my wife on where the key was and the status of the car. As bizarre as it sounds, what I described is what happened. The car completely died and then restarted itself, which means engaging the starter. I've been wiggling the key in the ignition trying to get something to act up but no luck.

I've been through all the ignition switch posts here and I'm yet to come across one where all power to the car was lost (including the hazards, which according to my wiring diagram bypass the load reduction relay).

Here's a question - if the car is already running and you turn the key to start again, what happens? I know that on some cars the starter will engage but in others it's locked out. On NBs does it lock the starter out and honk the horn? That could be why the horn honked when she put the key in after the car started itself.
 

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Here's a question - if the car is already running and you turn the key to start again, what happens? I know that on some cars the starter will engage but in others it's locked out. On NBs does it lock the starter out and honk the horn? That could be why the horn honked when she put the key in after the car started itself.
Can't answer that, and at the risk of doing damage to the bendix, not going to go try it! (lol) I suspect the horn honking thing is related to the alarm system.

Is it Herbie :jumpy:

:eek:

Seems other cars start themselves.. How weird !!

Starting Problems
Christine, Stephen King

My wife thinks it's mad because we installed a baby seat in the back the other day!
The most viable cause discussed yet! :roflmao:
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Over dinner I had a thought. I wonder if there isn't indeed a short in the ignition switch where the start position was still receiving power even though the key had been moved back to run. As someone pointed out the only way for the starter to engage is for a mechanical connection to be made in the ignition switch.

My wife didn't notice any driveability issues but then again she only made it a few thousand feet. I asked if she noticed any noises or anything and she was in such a hurry to get to her appointment she didn't notice anything until it died on her.

Working through the possibilities here I see two paths, both of which would drive the electrical system haywire.

1. The starter stays engaged and continues to draw power. Eventually it's going to draw the battery down to the point that the car stalls - the alternator wouldn't be able to replace the power being lost.

2. The starter stays engaged but is no longer drawing power - above a certain RPM it will actually act as a generator and back feed unregulated AC current into the system.

In either situation I see the electrical system being out of whack and something overheating. Five minutes go by and things cool down. Since the starter switch is still engaged, the engine will start itself up again. Normally the lack of a key would trigger the immobilizer, but I went out and measured and with the keys in her lap the remote would be about four inches from the steering column. That might be close enough for the immobilizer to get a read and allow the engine to continue.

She puts her key in and by cycling the key the switch contacts break and things go back to normal.

Situation 1 would leave the battery severely drained which would explain the lack of power to the entire vehicle. After it cooled down enough it might be able to do one more start. Since the engine was warm it would be an easy start.

I have no idea what situation 2 would do. I would think that the ECM would shut down due to the voltage problems but that would still leave the battery able to power the flashers.

Am I crazy or does this sound plausible? In either case replacing the switch should fix it, but I just want to make sure I've considered all the possibilities.
 

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I understand your reasoning. However, for the starter bendix to stay engaged in the flywheel (a failure in the starter solenoid, typically), and this can happen, and indeed would or could be sporatic, the noise would be such that your wife would have had immediate concern, well, let me re-phrase, should have. If the Bendix stays engaged, in very short order damage is done to the teeth on the bendix. A quick look at that shoud tell you if that occured.

But I think you might well be on the right track of something heating up and cooling causing the result described. Just really at a loss as to what it could be. I am, however, quite certain this will not be a single isolated incident, and it will either happen again or progress to the next step.

In all my years and millions of miles of driving, I have never had an ignition switch problem, in any vehicle, EVER, but the switches seem to be very problematic in the NBs, both mechanically (the right side of the column) and electrically (the left side of the column), and I'm pretty certain this will ultimately be the root of your problem.

Wish I could be of more help.

Did I read you have access to wiring diagrams and can read them? I have both Bentleys, a Chiltons, and a Haynes. Let me know if I can help in any way.

M.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
MORAV - Many thanks for the responses. I do have the Haynes guide and can read diagrams. I'm a Ford man myself and I've also never had a problem with the ignition switches. But then surprise surprise I start searching the 'net and find it chock full of examples of VW's having problems - many with melted wires which, knock on wood, I haven't found yet.

I just thought of something that does shoot a hole in my first theory but it would explain why the starter might not have burned up. As soon as she put the car in gear (it's an automatic), the park/neutral relay would cut the power to the starter. The wire between the ignition switch and this relay would remain hot though.

I picked up a new factoid since my last post. She thinks that when she shifted from reverse to drive the traction control light flashed briefly as if she hit an icy spot. Assuming the computer isn't screwed up I suppose having the starter engaged for a split second as she passed through neutral might make the computer think a wheel was slipping. She thinks that there may have been a noise too but she was on the phone (go figure).

All the fuses and wires on top of the battery are in pristine condition; I don't see any sign that they've been subjected to heat. Looking through the diagrams I have I don't see any circuit breakers in the electrical system. Does your Bentleys make any mention of them? Automotive circuit breakers usually reset themselves after they cool down. Normally cooling a fuse or a fusible link is pointless since they are physically destroyed.

Whatever it was it took less than a minute on a 30 degree day to heat up to the failure point. Then I drove it around all day to day and couldn't reproduce the problem.

Can't wait for the new switch to arrive. The thing that always bugs me about electrical problems is you're never quite sure that they've been fixed. Just because it hasn't happened in a month's time doesn't mean it won't happen again tomorrow.
 
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